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In their first game with the Lakers and coach Mike D'Antoni, MarShon Brooks and Kent Bazemore made sure Los Angeles came out a winner in the latest matchup of the NBA's most storied rivalry.
Brooks scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter against his former club, spearheading a 101-92 victory over Boston on Friday night and helping snap a franchise-record eight-game home losing streak. Bazemore had 15 points, including a pair of clutch 3-pointers less than 2 minutes apart during the final 4:20 as the Lakers outscored the Celtics 38-18 in the final period.
"Me and Kent just wanted to come out here and play with some energy," Brooks said. "I was tired - real tired. But D'Antoni gives you that confidence and he lets you go out there and play your game. So I felt free doing that. The difference in the game was on the other side of the ball. We played real good defense, forced some turnovers, and that really got us going in the fourth quarter."
The Lakers are Brooks' fifth NBA club and third this season. He played 10 games with the Celtics before he was dealt to the Warriors on Jan. 15 in a three-team trade that brought Joel Anthony to Boston.
"You know what, man? A lot of people think I should be mad at the Boston Celtics. But I guarantee you, no one is happier for me than (coach) Brad Stevens and (assistant coach) Jay Larranaga," Brooks said. "They've seen all the work I've put in, and it's paid off."
The two guards barely had time to get acquainted with their new teammates following Wednesday's trade that sent Steve Blake to the Golden State Warriors. But Brooks and Bazemore both turned the game around after the Lakers fell behind by as many as 13 points late in the third quarter.
"Jordan Farmar did a great job down the stretch leading us. He's been around a while, and he told us to just go out there and have fun and leave it all out there on the floor," said Bazemore, who played more than 33 minutes.
Gasol had 16 points and seven rebounds in his first game since Jan. 31 after missing seven games with a groin strain. But teammates Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Xavier Henry and Nick Young were still among the walking wounded.
Jeff Green scored 21 points during a foul-plagued 33 minutes for the Celtics, who have lost eight of their last 11 games against the Lakers at Staples Center. Brandon Bass had 20 points.
Rajon Rondo had 11 assists, six points and six rebounds. The four-time All-Star point guard, who tore the ACL in his right knee almost 13 months ago, is averaging 10.2 points and 7.7 assists in 12 games since his return to the lineup on Jan. 17. The Celtics have lost 10 of them.
The Celtics pulled away to a 72-59 lead with 2:48 left in the third quarter, their largest advantage to that point, with a 12-2 run capped by Bass' dunk. But the Lakers opened the fourth with a 13-2 surge, which Brooks helped fuel with eight points, including a fast-break dunk that tied it at 76 with 9:15 to play after he stole the ball from Jerryd Bayless.
"MarShon can score and get can get going," Stevens said. "... As difficult as change is sometimes, it's also an opportunity - and (Brooks and Bazemore) both took great advantage of that opportunity today."
The Lakers and Celtics have combined to win 32 championships and have met each other in the finals 12 times - most recently in 2010, when Los Angeles beat Boston in seven games and avenged the Celtics' six-game triumph over them two years earlier.
But the teams have experienced a severe reversal of fortune. The Lakers (19-36) are 6-23 since Dec. 21, and the Celtics (19-37) are 7-23 since Dec. 18. Their combined winning percentage of .342 is the lowest since the rivalry began in 1948-49.
Lakers players have missed a combined total of 200 games because of injuries, forcing D'Antoni to employ 28 different starting lineups - and six different players at the starting point guard spot.
Rondo missed Boston's first 40 games, after the Celtics lost Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to free agency over the summer - and coach Doc Rivers to the Clippers.
Only once have the Celtics and Lakers missed the playoffs in the same season. That was 1993-94, Robert Parish's final season in Boston and Laker great James Worthy's final season in the NBA.